This is the first in the Interfaith Ramadan Series:
- How am I going to cope without my mid morning coffee?
- What if my mum freaks out that I’m not eating during Ramadan?
- Who’s going to come near me if I have morning breath all day?
These are just a few of the many thoughts and fears that whizz through your mind when you’re about to embark on your first Ramadan. Then time passes and you begin to forget those initial fears as Ramadan becomes part of your annual rhythm.
Observing someone taking part in their first Ramadan, reminds 'matured' Muslims of how important it is to hold on to the spirit of our first Ramadan. By being mindful of our first Ramadans, we can stay fresh rather than taking things for granted or letting ourselves fall into a spiritual rut.
Several of my friends are about to start their first Ramadans and I’m very excited that they’re going to share their thoughts before and after Ramadan. In the process, we'll see how the reality stacks up with their expectations.
Today, it’s Melissa being asked the questions...
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1.) What was your view of Ramadan before you became a Muslim?
I was always open to learning about world religions, but Ramadan before I started learning about Islam was just something I thought of as another religion's holy month. I never took a lot of time to think about it. I didn't even know it involved fasting until I became friends with Muslims in college. Then last year, I experienced what Ramadan was like through one of my close friends, and I began reading Qu'ran at night during Ramadan. Alhamdulillah ('thanks be to God'), we see where that has led me today.
2.) Did you take part in fasting or a similar religious festival before you became Muslim? Are there parallels between your faith now and before?
I don't believe I fasted before. I was Catholic before reverting. The only similar religious festival I can think of is Lent. During Lent, I abstained from eating meat on Fridays and also as a kid I "gave up" something (like eating ice cream) for 40 days. As a grown up, I usually used the opportunity to try to abstain from cursing and also to do more for others (i.e. soup kitchens, donations, etc).
3.) How are you feeling about doing your first Ramadan?
At first, I was feeling very excited and optimistic about my first Ramadan. It was only over the last week, when my health has not been cooperating, that I have been a little anxious/scared about it. Since I converted, I have been having trouble making Salah (ritual prayer) 5 times a day as well, and I am determined to do this during Ramadan, which may result in needing to find places to pray at work or adjusting when I go out. I sat down last night to make a schedule for eating, fasting, working, exercising, and going to the masjid during Ramadan.
4.) Do you have any worries or concerns about fasting?
Short answer: yes! Here, fajr is ~3:30AM and iftar is ~8:30PM. It made me a little stressed to see how few hours I have to become hydrated and work out, since I am trying to lose weight for health reasons. Also, I have insulin resistance. I am going to the doctor tomorrow to check the medications I'm on and make sure that fasting won't be detrimental to my health.
5.) What are you looking forward to?
I am looking forward to becoming closer to Allah (swt). I know, since reverting, I haven't been the best Muslim, especially when it comes to praying 5 times a day. I am also looking forward to the feeling of knowing I am connected with all other Muslims in the world during this holy month. We are all fasting and all praying together. This is exciting to me. I am also looking forward to Eid, since I have never experienced anything like it before.
6.) How have you prepared for this month?
I think my biggest preparation was making a schedule that I am going to try to stick to and also researching what to eat that won't make my blood sugar levels go crazy. I am also going to try to eat things that take longer to digest, like lentils. The schedule is important for me, because it reminds me to utilize every minute.
7.) What are your personal goals during Ramadan?
- Become closer to Allah (swt)
- Make Salah 5 times a day
- Reduce time wasted on Facebook & iPhone games
- Spend time reading Islamic texts (see below)
- Try to avoid cursing, talking about anyone, or judging people
- Go to the masjid (mosque) as much as possible
8.) What are you planning on reading?
I am planning on reading the entire Qu'ran. In addition, I have some Islamic texts that I received from Saudi Arabia that I plan on reading. My big focus is going to be on the Holy Qu'ran and then listening to the Arabic recitation on my iQuran iPhone app (which is great, btw!)
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Can you relate to Melissa's hopes and concerns?
How would you respond to these questions?
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